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The ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ Exit Survey

Breaking down Ava DuVernay’s trippy Disney movie, from the evil baby genius to the lettuce dragon

Disney/Ringer illustration
Spoiler alert

A kids’ movie about intergalactic space travel directed by Ava DuVernay and starring Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, and OPRAH? Sign us up. The Ringer staff caught Disney’s latest this past weekend and then came together to talk lettuce dragons, giant Oprah, a villain known as Charles Wallace, and many other things that likely gave children nightmares.

1. What is your tweet-length review of A Wrinkle in Time?

Alyssa Bereznak: A Wrinkle in Time was like a longer, fanicer Teletubbies episode with more expensive special effects, and Oprah as the sun baby.

Amanda Dobbins: The Oprah Winfrey Show, but for children and stoners. I’m kind of surprised that no one made this before now!

Miles Surrey: “BE A WARRIOR!”

[cries] Yes, Oprah.

Alison Herman: The metaphysical wonkiness of this movie’s conflict, mythology, and trippy climax essentially make it Annihilation 4 Kidz. I wish it had the visual flair to live up to that promise.

Andrew Gruttadaro: And thus, Ava DuVernay’s mission of sowing distrust between sisters and brothers is complete.

Justin Charity: “Before the age of reason, the child receives images, not ideas.”—Rousseau, Genevan.

Rob Harvilla: That thing where you RT a #longread before reading it, and then you’re super nervous the whole time you’re reading it, to the point where it requires a two-story-tall Oprah just to soothe you.

Lindsay Zoladz: The druggiest children’s entertainment since the boat scene in Willy Wonka.

2. What was the best moment of the movie?

Gruttadaro: Did everyone else see Reese Witherspoon turn into the plant version of Falkor from The NeverEnding Story or was that just me?

Surrey: The word surreal has been tossed around way too casually to describe films with even a slight hint of strangeness, but A Wrinkle in Time had some moments that were, to a point, surreal. I loved it when the kids stumbled upon an artificially constructed cul-de-sac with a bunch of children bouncing a red ball in unison.

Harvilla: I liked it when Meg learned to take a compliment.

Bereznak: It was very real when evil Charles Wallace points out how weird it is that Calvin tagged along on a life-threatening journey through space and time with a bunch of strangers for no apparent reason.

Herman: It’s long been a personal fantasy to spend some alone time with Chris Pine on the set of the “Hotline Bling” video, so I’m glad Meg got to live it.

Chris Pine in ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ Disney

Zoladz: Confession: I am an adult human and not a child, so I have to say that my favorite parts of A Wrinkle in Time were any scenes that made me imagine an R-rated prequel about Chris Pine and Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s sexy scientist romance. Is that wrong? They had great chemistry! Like, almost too great for a children’s movie? I feel like they had a very fun evening after Chris Pine returned home from being trapped for four years in the “Hotline Bling” set, and frankly I would like to know more about it. Maybe that should be Ava’s next project. Fifty Shades of Tesseract.

Charity: Charles Wallace dragging his family down the hallway, giving me severe Willy Wonka–in-the-gondola vibes.

Dobbins: This is basically, for better and worse, a whole film of moments: the lettuce dragon, the dystopian suburb, the Panic Room showdown, Chris Pine in a James Turrell physics prison, every Oprah speech. But really, I can’t get over the genius of exporting Oprah, in giant form, to children. Children deserve a-ha moments, too!

3. What was your least favorite part of the film?

Zoladz: The parts with Evil Charles Wallace were WAY TOO SCARY! That kid was creepy enough, and then they had to go and make him the incarnation of crippling self-doubt? No thank you.

Harvilla: It was a bad sign anytime the goopy inspiro-core soundtrack kicked in, and I do not enjoy regarding Sade’s voice as a bad sign.

Dobbins: I’m gonna go with: the script, followed closely by the soundtrack choices to paper over the script. A Wrinkle in Time was never my favorite YA book, and it’s obviously complicated source material, but they didn’t get there. Maybe a child would disagree?

Surrey: What was the point of Calvin, aside from demonstrating that tweens will—under the right circumstances—thirst across the universe?

Gruttadaro: Michael Peña turning into a marionette and collapsing onto the floor will give me nightmares.

Bereznak: Every scene involving Meg’s high school bully. The locker prank, the sidebar about how she may have an eating disorder, the cold stare out the window that just so happens to overlook Meg’s backyard. It all felt so lazy and contrived. It’s 2018, give your mean girls some personality!

Herman: Every time a moment of genuine wonder was interrupted by the Kidz Bop version of the Black Panther soundtrack. This movie is weird, and should’ve been allowed to lean into the disconcerting strangeness of scenes like the cul-de-sac sequence. Instead, we get half-measures and shortcuts— what botched Pokémon live-action film was Reese Witherspoon’s dragon form copy-and-pasted out of?—that trade the ambiguity of mind-expanding fantasy for the etched-in-stone clarity of Disney movie messaging. The messages are great! Saving the world through the power of self-love is great! I just wish it wasn’t so clear which parts of the Wrinkle story DuVernay was interested in—and which parts she wasn’t.

Charity: Galifianakis.

4. Who made the most of their screen time?

Dobbins: R-E-E-S-E. No one is selling it better.

Herman: Everyone told me Oprah was playing Oprah. No one told me Reese Witherspoon was playing Madeline Mackenzie in Space.

Gruttadaro: No shade against Oprah, but Gugu certainly had the highest efficiency rating in this movie as Meg’s mom/a beautiful scientist who came up with the right “calculations” to make her husband disappear.

Surrey: Zach Galifianakis was genuinely endearing as the Happy Medium, and perhaps most shocking of all, seemed totally believable as the love interest to Reese Witherspoon’s Mrs. Whatsit.

Zoladz: Zach Galifianakis by a mile. My favorite joke in the movie was when Meg tells him that he sounds like her mother and he says, “Oh, is she a baritone?” I want to believe Zach G. brought that joke with him.

Charity: Storm Reid. She’s got the range. She’s carrying Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling through whole scenes. Dwell on that.

Bereznak: I enjoyed Reese Witherspoon for her fishtail braids, and offering occasional comedic relief throughout the film. You’d think having (1) Oprah as your spiritual adviser, (2) Mindy Kaling as a walking inspirational quote book, and (3) Zach Galifianakis as your yoga instructor would guarantee a certain level of entertainment. And yet.

Harvilla: Honest answer here is DJ Khaled, who did not appear on screen, but whose “Another one!” ad-lib over the credits was a delight regardless. REAL LIFE!! WE THE BEST PHYSICS!! THEY DON’T WANT US TO TESSER ACROSS THE UNIVERSE!! “THE IT” PLAYED ITSELF!!

Charles Wallace in ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ Disney

5. Let’s talk about a little guy named Charles Wallace.

Surrey: But what if we didn’t? Possessed children? It’s a no from me.

Gruttadaro: You mean Charleswallace (one word)? I knew this kid was trouble the second I realized he was making everyone call him Charleswallace.

Dobbins: He was evil for a LONG time! I was sort of into the darkness of it all (though, with all due respect to that small child, I could’ve used like 15 percent less cereal commercial in the performance).

Harvilla: Weaponizing and villainizing the “cute, precocious kid in a Disney movie” trope was a shrewd choice. I would subscribe to his podcast but probably delete all the episodes unheard.

Herman: I can’t believe I’m saying this about a 6-year-old who speaks in complete sentences, but he was kind of … underdeveloped? Like much of the movie’s world-building, whatever happens to him on Camazotz feels hazy. Is The It speaking for Charles Wallace or taking advantage of pre-existing resentments about being hyper-gifted and adopted? If it’s the latter, shouldn’t he and Meg talk those feelings out once he’s no longer possessed? Is he able to communicate with celestial beings because he’s supernatural or because he’s just smart? Whatever the answers, I’d have a much easier time finding Charles Wallace as charming as I’m supposed to if I knew what was up with him.

Charity: A Wrinkle in Time, Black Panther, and The Last Jedi are each part of the Disney cinematic universe. I’m pitting Charles Wallace against Killmonger and Kylo Ren, and I’m taking all your money.

Zoladz: He reminded me of a tiny Jidenna! Oh me, oh me oh my! What this movie really needed was a montage of Charles Wallace getting dressed in the morning set to “Classic Man.”

Bereznak: I would recommend halving his Ritalin dosage.

6. Pick your favorite Wrinkle in Time outfit.

Gruttadaro: Sick vest, Chris Pine.

Surrey: A tie between Michael Peña’s maniacal beach outfit on Camazotz and Chris Pine demonstrating the most versatility of all the Chris Wars’ Chrises by seamlessly becoming a Hot Scientist Dad.

Dobbins: Chris Pine’s hot dad New Balances. Shout-out to Chris Pine for his new role as the hot sidekick in female-driven blockbusters. I am grateful.

Zoladz: I need the next Fenty Beauty collection to just be “Wrinkle in Time Oprah.” Lip game strong.

Oprah and Storm Reid in ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ Disney

Bereznak: I loved all the hints of Bowie cosplay in Oprah’s looks. The best of them was the silver-and-copper bustier number with tin foil sleeves she wore while doing a tree pose on a wobbly rock. Her bejeweled eyebrows were the highlight of my moviegoing experience.

Harvilla: Chris Pine’s cardigan. I have reasonable expectations for myself.

Herman: Oprah was really out here serving Thorgy Thor’s All Stars 3 elimination getup. I approve!

Charity: Reese Witherspoon wearing all that cabbage.

7. What’s more realistic: the ability to travel across the universe or the idea that a 13-year-old boy born in 2003 would know the lyrics to Outkast’s “Git Up, Git Out”?

Bereznak: It’s much harder to envision Calvin bumping Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik on his laptop than a mind-driven interstellar expedition.

Charity: “... but my mind is old.”—Johnson, American.

Herman: You’re talking about Calvin like he’s a real person and not a two-dimensional construct created to stare awestruck at Meg and speak in One Direction-isms. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

Surrey: I think this question undersells that Chris Pine went to a serious NASA meeting and tried to convince a group of scientists that you can traverse the universe if you just think really hard with your mind—and he was right. It’s gotta be “tessering.” Outkast is on Spotify.

Gruttadaro: I guess I buy that after being reamed out by his father, an extra from the 1987 film Wall Street, Calvin would go up to his room and cool off with some Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik.

Harvilla: I’m guessing that kid was rage-gifted the whole Outkast catalog by his jerkoff father one Christmas. I give this movie its faults.

Zoladz: “She needs a golden calculator to divide / The time it takes to look inside and realize / That real guys go for real down to Mars girls.”—Outkast, American.

8. At the end of the film, Mrs. Which names some “warriors” who came from Earth—who were you most surprised to hear make the list?

Charity: Young Thug. Well-deserved, however.

Gruttadaro: I mean, good for Frida Kahlo.

Bereznak: Definitely the Nazi.

Herman: Gandhi! Isn’t this movie woke enough to know he’s problematic now?

Dobbins: I don’t remember all of them, but I do remember that there was like a 50-year gap between the last person and Meg? Like … Einstein, and then Meg. Surely someone has done some useful science in the interim?

Harvilla: I didn’t hear Vince Staples’s name, but I’m just going to pretend I heard Vince Staples’s name.

Zoladz: It is astonishing to me that Oprah wasn’t meta-name-checked there. Wasn’t that … kind of the whole point of the movie? If she was feeling modest she could have at least shouted-out Gayle King.

Surrey: I’ll say this: Mister Rogers was robbed of a shout-out.